On Giving Up

Many people give up long before they could ever see results. Maybe they want quick return on investment. Maybe exhaustion takes over. After all, as I’ve written before, the constant effort needed to improve wearies.

Yet the adage “never give up” has gaping flaws.

Sometimes, you should give up.

Advisers counsel business people to set what I’ll call an “out point”—parameters to indicate when a venture has failed. Out points help companies know when the possible damage of continuing outweighs the likelihood of success.

Yet emotions get in the way of clear thinking, and many companies persist in endeavors long after their times to quit have come.

Why do people give up too early? And why do people keep at something when they shouldn’t?

Because it’s hard to know.

When you feel frustrated, you can’t tell if giving up means quitting too early. And when you’ve invested considerable time and energy in something that excites you, giving it up excruciates.

Perhaps the solution requires two safeguards: setting an out point and making it known.

Having criteria by which to benchmark success or failure helps. But out points alone won’t work. You need trusted advisors to hold you accountable to your out points.

Will you always check your out points when in the thick of an endeavor? No. Trusted advisors will remind you.

Will you always listen to your advisors? No.

Yet your chances improve through having people hold you accountable, whether in stopping you from going too far in a fit of passion or in encouraging you forward because, though you may feel exhausted and discouraged, you just haven’t gotten there yet.

How do you decide when to quit?